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Panasonic reaps benefits of mass transit tax credit

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Jeremy Hobson: Panasonic is moving its headquarters down the road from Secaucus, N.J. to Newark. When the company announced the move last month, it said it was attracted to Newark’s public transit system. But there’s also a $100 million package of tax credits involved.

From the transportation nation project at WNYC, Andrea Bernstein reports.

Andrea Bernstein: The Panasonic move is a huge deal for Newark, a historically depressed city still mired in the memory of 1967 riots. Mayor Cory Booker couldn’t have been more ecstatic.

Cory Booker: Surely in my lifetime, there is no man I’ve tried to woo more than Joe Taylor.

Taylor is the CEO of Panasonic. He says his company is leaving its headquarters in Secaucus, N.J., because there, too many of its employees have to drive to work.

Joe Taylor: We couldn’t possibly demonstrate our commitment and our credibility to being a green company, and ask 1,000 people to drive to work every day.

Panasonic will locate within a block of Newark Penn Station, with connections to Amtrak and several commuter rail lines. It also helped that Panasonic reaped more than a hundred-million-dollar Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit. If a big company locates near a transit line, it gets a bundle of goodies from the state.

Pete Kasabach of the planning group N.J. Future says it makes sense.

Pete Kasabach: Our distressed cities in particular need some incentives in order to bring the first wave of companies back in.

The measure was pushed through by the former Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, an environmentalist. But it’s been embraced by the current governor, Republican Chris Christie — a famous cost-cutter — because he says it will help the economy. Pete Kasabach:

Kasabach: In many ways, we hope that other states don’t do this.

Mayor Booker says because of the transit tax credit, he’s got four or five more companies on the line.

Booker: It’s going to help us land a few more big whales.

But Booker acknowledges it’s not just being near transit — it’s the financial incentives for the companies.

Booker: You know, I think it’s both. But let’s be clear, the money was the major, major factor.

Have your employees ride transit, get government cash. That’s a formula Booker hopes will make Newark go ka-ching.

I’m Andrea Bernstein for Marketplace.

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